There was much hype about the bike path around the edge of the suburb, along the Molonglo River. The good news is that Stage 1 is finished. The community path through the Stage 2 area is progressing but not yet completed.
Tharwa is a great idea for a day out and there is a lot to see in a small area. You could consider riding there south through Canberra, or if you are keen then try the loop ride from Stromlo Forest Park south through the suburbs to Tharwa, where you cross the Murrumbidgee River and return to Stromlo Forest Park on the other side of the river via Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Cotter.
The active travel facilities planned for Whitlam Stage 2 fall short of expectations. As human behaviour follows infrastructure, this lack of future proofing active travel facilities is directly detrimental to achieving an increase in active travel in the ACT.
This ACT Government held an Active Travel Design workshop (12 December 2018) and stated that the background to the new Active Travel Design Guidelines included “poor infrastructure outcomes as a consequence of planning intent getting ‘lost in translation’”. My analysis concludes that this observation is likely relevant for the planning of the brand-new estate Whitlam. My concern is that the failure to systematically integrate active travel principles in the planning process, as well as the dominance of decade old legacy planning practices, will most likely result in the missed potential to develop active travel facilities in the Whitlam and other new estate developments in Canberra. Consequently, this will not only make the roads less safe for vulnerable road users but also not achieve any set active travel goals.
The ACT Government goals found in the ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25, the Molonglo River Reserve Management Plan 2019, and the Active Travel Framework conflict and are difficult to reconcile. These strategies show commonalities but as with any specific project, there will be trade-offs. In the Molonglo Valley, active travel is poorly served.
The ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25 goals cannot be met with Recreational Routes, and that is all the Molonglo River Reserve Management Plan 2019 is likely to produce. The Active Travel Framework describes both Recreational Routes and Community Routes. Riding to work must be attractive, direct and safe, if we are to achieve the ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25 goals for active travel. We need cycle highways and more Community Routes. Only 3% of Canberra’s commuters currently ride to work – and this is actually a downward trend!
The Molonglo Valley Development demonstrates the tensions that arise in urban development. The Molonglo Special Purpose Reserve and Whitlam Residential Estate show no clear benefit for the active traveller. This should be a reason for concern. A good overarching network of cycle highways will not occur by accident.
There has been an update on the ACT Government website for the new Belconnen Bikeway, which is now expected to be completed in late 2020. This is good news as the ACT Government does not update its websites for active travel projects all that often. As part of the COVID-19 Fast-track program, the ACT Government is now providing more information about cycling infrastructure projects. Check out the website for more information or visit the original project page.
Another important document for active travel in Canberra and urban planning, and another very long title. This post is an introduction to Planning for Active Travel in the ACT: Active Travel Infrastructure Interim Planning Guideline (ACT Government, January 2019). Because the title is so long it is often simply referred to it as PATACT.
The ACT urban planning documents often build on one another. This one is no exception. This document was released in January 2019, which may seem a long time after the release of the Building an Integrated Transport Network: Active Travel in 2015, and Light Rail Network –Delivering a modern transport system for a growing city (Light Rail Network), October 2015. The last two documents describe the ACT Government’s strategy for active travel as well as the light rail component of active travel. With PATACT the ACT Government describes what that means for non-road infrastructure and urban planning, in particular cycling.
It is unrealistic to expect the ACT Government to fund all active travel infrastructure from general revenue as capital works. It cannot be done. Alone the maintenance to a high standard an ever-expanding bike paths network is a challenge.
The sale of land for dwellings will always be a top priority for the ACT Government due to the expected population growth and ever-growing costs of servicing the existing Canberra population. The ACT budget is spent on the services that are regarded by most Canberrans as essential (health, education, etc).
We are proud of Canberra, our bush capital. The environmental regulations will continue to be front-of-mind for estate planners to protected and preserve these environmental assets. The downside is that it comes at a price. There are many places in Canberra where you will not get approval to build a bike path.
Land sales are revenue, so the ACT will prioritise that over finishing suburbs (and bike paths). The land release will remain staged. This type of estate planning is within a bounded area and the bigger picture outside those boundaries, such as cross city cycle highways, are left off the map.
We will need to accept that without capital funding, the active travel infrastructure will never be built all at once, but in a fragmented way.
Riding to work requires cycle highway networks that span the city. With the above constraints, it is achievable but not quick or easy. Without long term planning and enduring effort, it will never be achieved.
Urban planning in the ACT is a very complicated and regulated process. In general, I think the ACT Government does a remarkably good job. We need good active travel infrastructure and to achieve that some und Urban planning in the ACT is a very complicated and regulated process. In general, I think the ACT Government does a remarkably good job. The ACT needs good active travel infrastructure and to achieve that some understanding of urban planning in the ACT is required. The problem for all those who are not urban planning practitioners is where to start. The documents provide by the ACT Government are very detailed and often highly technical. It is easy to quickly become overwhelmed. This is a simplified explanation of how urban planning works in Canberra. It is by no means complete and my apologies for errors. You are welcome to comment below on further improvements for this introductory text.
For active travel, we need networks and not just fragments. We want to be able to travel across the city over distances of 10 km and more. When we see an active traveller they are, generally speaking, not travelling to this place but THROUGH it, on the way to somewhere else. It is not clear what their destination is only that they needed to travel through this area. When building the Active Travel Network we are building thoroughfares.
It is important to understand the way the city is planned and developed. If we want to shape and prioritise the development of a good active travel network it will require interventions during the planning phase. This particularly true for cycle highways for riding to work. The design requirements are different from the paths for recreational riders and locals that seek a destination within a suburb.
Denman Prospect and Whitlam are two suburbs in the Molonglo Valley, south and north of the Molonglo River, and part of the Molonglo Valley Stage 3. Whitlam Residential Estate is now under construction and the planning of the Molonglo Special Purpose Reserve (Nummerak) has proceeded to a development application.
This is a case study of these two independently planned developments that are of particular interest to active travel in the Monlonglo Valley. One of the basic principles of urban planning is “permeability”. Urban environments that are permeable allow easy and direct routes for pedestrians and cyclists independent of the road network. Cars have high travel speeds and ease of travel (effort). For pedestrians and cyclists this is not the case and “ease” means a direct route. How does the Whitlam Residential Estate and the planning of the Molonglo Special Purpose Reserve stack up.